“Our intelligence is what makes us human and AI is an extension of that quality.”Yann LeCun, Chief AI Scientist at Meta
When hearing artificial intelligence or AI, robots, self-driving cars, and chatbots may first come to mind. Besides, we can see the application of artificial intelligence in various industries such as healthcare, cybersecurity, finance, marketing, and even animation—hinting that AI is constantly driving changes and shaping the future of nearly every industry.
In the animation industry, advanced technologies and techniques have emerged to accompany animators in creating their animation projects. But not until recently, animations were produced using traditional methods—making it a laborious process—where animators had to design and model every detail in an animated video individually.
However, cutting-edge technologies, specifically artificial intelligence or AI, have become a new weapon in every animator’s armory.
AI in animation mainly benefits the animators by expediting the creative process by taking over tedious tasks. And with that extra time, animators can deeply explore more of their creative prowess and work on achieving their artistic visions; because no one wants to spend hours and hours doing mundane tasks, right?
With AI in animation, it’s just as how the famous saying goes—animators can do more with less. But some questions must be answered: What is artificial intelligence? In what ways will AI affect the animators and the animation industry? And the biggest question here is why AI in animation changes the game.
In this blog post, we will talk about AI in animation, the benefits and drawbacks of AI in animation, and why AI in animation changes the game.
What is Artificial Intelligence
In the mid-1950s, John McCarthy, world-recognized as the father of AI, coined the term artificial intelligence. He defined it as the science of using machines that can be taught to act and reason like humans.
It works by taking in extensive data and analyzing that data for patterns and correlations. Then, it uses the patterns it discovers from the data to predict the outcome for a given input.
A few famous examples of artificial intelligence are these digital assistants: Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. This voice-activated software can understand and help users perform tasks from searching for something on the internet to sending commands to another app. They learn from user interaction and use it to recognize speech patterns better and serve user results perfectly tailored to their preferences.
AI in Animation
In animation, artificial intelligence is extensively used in rotoscope automation, 3D face modeling, and voiceover for animation sound design.
AI in Rotoscope Automation
Image from Business Wire
Animators use rotoscoping to create characters that look and move like real people by tracing over live-action footage frame by frame. Coraline, The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link were made by Laika, a stop-motion animation studio, using physical puppets and real-world lighting that is painstakingly adjusted frame-by-frame.
Laika takes several years to accomplish a single film with this complex animation procedure. Laika's characters have noticeable lines in their eyes since they use puppetry, and to address that, the animation studio used the rotoscoping technique. Unfortunately, it still required human intervention to set boundaries for the rotoscoping on each frame.
Steve Emerson, the visual effects supervisor at Laika, said that this process is time-consuming and many of their artists prefer to avoid it. Fortunately, Intel collaborated with Laika to create a machine learning, a component of artificial intelligence, solution for the rotoscoping process.
Image from Engadget
The image above shows some characters from the film Missing Link. Here, you can see how the AI tool developed by Intel and Laika automated the time-consuming process of erasing the lines that bisected the eyes of the puppets, which Laika previously did so through the rotoscoping technique.
AI in rotoscope automation help make the animators' work processes more efficient and streamline the design process.
AI in 3D Face Modeling
For animators, getting an animated character's facial expression right is one of animation's most critical and challenging aspects. Humans, as we are, tend to spend so much time recognizing and inspecting faces. Hence, a convincing facial animation requires animators to go the extra mile and ensure that their 3D-rendered faces are as realistic as possible.
Modeling a still 3D face may be an easy-peasy task for some animators, but animating a 3D face filled with facial expressions while capturing subtle details can be a tremendous task, even for a seasoned animator.
However, using the power of artificial intelligence, researchers at Disney proposed a nonlinear 3D face modeling method that uses neural architectures. This system can generate and manipulate 3D faces through 3D modeling.
Additionally, an animation tech startup known as Midas Interactive launched a tool called Midas Creature that automates complex 2D and 3D animations. Using Midas Creature allows the animators to tell the system to choreograph and figure out the movements themselves, thus, having no more need for designing a character from scratch.
Overall, AI in 3D face modeling speeds up animators' production time and makes modeling quicker.
AI in Voiceover for Animation Sound Design
In creating animated videos, sound design is one of the widely used techniques in animation. However, compared to live-action videos that prefer naturally recorded sounds, sound in animation is created from scratch. Animators and animation sound designers design these audio effects to accommodate what happens in every animation frame.
Luckily, AI also plays a significant role in the voiceover chores in animation post-production. AI voices allow animators to reduce their working hours while also looking at other aspects of the animation they are working on.
Recently, Adobe launched a new software that used AI-powered lip-syncing to help animators synchronize the dialogue and motion of animated characters. To assign mouth shapes to sounds, animators can also use Adobe Sensei AI technology in character animation. It accurately syncs the character and voice in the dictation process through traditional frame-by-frame lip-syncing.
Pros and Cons of AI in Animation
From the time of cave-dwellers, creativity has always been in the blood of humanity. Technological advances, software, and techniques make it easier for animators to leverage their creative prowess using computers—this is widely known as AI animation.
The application of AI in animation helps animators save a substantial amount of time which means that animators can now have additional time to focus more on creative work instead of monotonous and repetitive work.
But just like everything else, AI in animation has advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of AI in Animation
The accuracy of the final animation product increases by applying artificial intelligence. For example, an AI-based facial recognition system can help animate characters more accurately and efficiently.
Another example is TikTok’s ability to hook its users. This is all thanks to the AI algorithm that digs through older video consumption of users and suggests optimal video content specifically for the user’s preference.
Increased Speed of Production
The primary benefit of AI in animation is it expedites the creative process by automating time-consuming tasks so animators can spend more time animating. The sped-up workflow AI provides in animation opens new doors for new artistic capabilities for animators. Also, decision-making processes and strategy planning surrounding a specific project will be backed up by AI; thus making it less time-consuming.
AI in animation helps animators to go beyond their creative limitations. Artificial intelligence aids animators in generating new concepts and ideas they may not have thought of before. And this is because using AI eases animators' workload and allows them to spend more time on creative thinking.
Cons of AI in Animation
Although many tools are accessible, essential software and hardware required to run an AI can be expensive, making it the main disadvantage of AI in animation. Plus, AI-generated animations require a lot of computing power to render, which is costly.
Since AI is a machine that can quickly learn and decide like humans, animators can sometimes have limited control over the final animation output because AI can make decisions that animators may disagree with.
Will AI in Animation Replace Animators?
As an animator in this technologically advanced world, this question may have popped into your mind at least once. Well, no one can fault you for feeling a little anxious!
Having AI in animation is like having an additional quick and intelligent teammate. It can significantly offer many advantages, as tackled above, when maximizing your time as an animator and streamlining and expanding your medium.
So, the answer to that question will be yes and no. Artificial intelligence can never fully take over a human animator’s job, as feared by some. It may eventually become a viable option for animation, but the creativity and expertise of a human animator are irreplaceable.
AI in animation gives animators diverse and vivid imagery that can fire up their creativity further, thus, enhancing the caliber of animations. But still, it can’t replicate the quality of animated projects created by animators.
With that said, AI replacing animators' jobs should be the last thing you should worry about. Instead, keep your eye on how AI in animation can enhance your creative work as an animator in this ever-evolving industry.
Why AI in Animation Changes the Game
AI in animation allows animators to spend more time coming up with fresh concepts and ideas and less time on monotonous tasks such as rotoscoping and keyframing. With AI in animation, animators can produce more realistic and lifelike characters and landscapes, improving the audiences’ engagement with animation.
Moreover, leveraging artificial intelligence may make animations more accessible, especially for deaf people and those with hearing disabilities.
Indeed, AI in animation is a powerful tool that enhances the existing techniques and methods in the animation production process. AI in animation offers a promising future for the industry to sail forward.
You can also change your game as an animator by gearing up with the basics by downloading a copy of our free marketing handbook, watching our free masterclass, and being on-the-know by reading our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio.”